Background: Organizational stressors have been found to be prevalent and problematic for sport performers, with research identifying demographic differences in the specific stressors
encountered. Extant sport psychology research on the topic of stress, however, has generally focused on able-bodied athletes; whilst that which has been conducted on disabled performers has typically
recruited relatively small samples to explore a narrow selection of organizational stressors, or examined other components of the stress process. The purpose of the present study, therefore, was to
explore the various organizational stressors that disabled athletes encounter.
Methods: The sample comprised 18 disabled athletes (ten male, eight female) who had a classified disability and experience of competing at a major championships in their sport (e.g.,
Paralympic Games, World Championships). The participants reported a range of disabilities (e.g., vision impairment, amputee, cerebral palsy, Spina Bifida) and represented a diversity of sports (e.g.,
swimming, para-canoe, para-triathlon, athletics, cycling). Participants took part in a semi-structured interview which was analyzed by drawing from grounded theory procedures.
Results: A total of 316 organizational stressors emerged from the data, which were abstracted into 31 concepts and four exploratory schemes: leadership and personnel issues, cultural
and team issues, logistical and environmental issues, and performance and personal issues. Leadership and personnel issues encapsulated the organizational stressors associated with the management and
support of a sports team. Cultural and team issues encapsulated the organizational stressors associated with the attitudes and behaviors within a sports team. Logistical and environmental issues
encapsulated the organizational stressors associated with the organization of operations for training and/or competition. Performance and personal issues encapsulated the organizational stressors
associated with a performer’s athletic career and physical self.
Conclusions: The findings highlight that organizational stressors are highly prevalent for disabled athletes, just as they are for able-bodied performers. The second, overarching,
message from this study is that whilst many similarities emerged between the organizational stressors that disabled athletes’ encounter and those previously reported by able-bodied performers, there
were also a number of distinct, disability-specific demands (e.g., inaccessible venues for disability requirements, lack of disability-specific coaching and training, lack of crowd at events, the
disability classification system). Given the problematic nature of organizational stressors in competitive sport, future research should continue examining and measuring a diversity of disabled
athletes’ experiences of these demands so that practitioners can work with sport organizations and performers to develop and implement appropriate, evidence-based stress management interventions.